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bob lembke

Battle on the Aisne

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bob lembke

I am researching an interesting battle that took place on April 4, 1917. My information is from German sources, and they do not

mention the nationality of the troops attacked, never mind their units. Also, the Germans usually used different place names. The

source I am usung has proved very useful but unfortunately rarely mentions the nationality of the troops on the other side.


The attack is described as being south of Berry au Bac, on the Aisne. The village of Le Sodat was captured. I believe that this is

in the area of Reims, which might indicate that the defenders were French.


Any help appreciated. At least the nationality of the troops defending Le Sodat on April 4, 1917, and the units defending the village

would be welcome information.

Edited by bob lembke
add a bit.

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Hello Bob,


It might help if we know the german units/divisons involved in that battle on that day


Let me know,



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bob lembke

Here is what I know, from the two sources I have already mined.


I think that the British were attacking in this area, for several days. It seems that the Germans counter-attacked 

on both sides of the village of Bullecourt on May 4th. The only specific unit I can say attacked was 10. Kompagnie,

Garde=Reserve=Pionier=Regiment (Flammenwerfer). A brief statement in the daily communique of the

German High Command of the 6th  Mentioned that regiments of several different German states participated,

but did not give specific unit numbers, which I think was done for counter-intelligence purposes.The Germans, 

in the counter-attack, captured 10 officers, 1225 ORs, and 35 MGs. Three flame Pioniere of the 10th Company 

fell, and a fourth died in military hospital in the next day or two, most likely of wounds sustained in this action.


Additionally, there was more fighting at this location on May 6th, and two more flame pioneers of the 12th Company 

of the flame regiment fell. On this day at that location over 200 British troops were captured, and another 6 MGs were



My next step will be to poke thru my German official histories, and see if they reveal what German units might have

been involved, besides the flame troops. This will sound odd, but accessing these books at the moment is slightly

dangerous. One of these histories might also reveal the British units involved, as they were written after the war, with

the use of some British material, and I think even with some cooperation with Allied military historians. And, of course,

there was no longer a military secrecy reason to not name specific units.


As I had a specific date, and a specific location (both sides of the village, narrowing the location to a few hundred meters),

I had hoped that this action would just pop up in someone's recollection. I will try to do that in the next day or so. (with a few

duplicates, I have about 110 German official histories, of about three different series. These are not unit histories. At least

that was my count of a few years ago. Seems a lot.)


I do not know the scale of the combat of May 4th. As the Daily Communique mentioned several regiments in general terms,

it seems to have been fairly large, also suggested by the sizable number of prisoners taken. I suspect that this might have been

an interesting engagement.

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bob lembke

Good Grief! I have conflated two different battles that I am studying. I am going thru my timeline covering  about 150 or so 1917

engagements, plucking out a number to study more closely. I opened this thread with a reference to one of them, and since I

posted my opening post, I have moved on and at the time I was trying to respond to Sly's very reasonable request I had moved

my search from April 1917 to May 1917.I am trying to delve deeper into several dozen 1917 engagements, and the result is that

I am "getting tangled up in my underwear". Mea culpa, mea culpa, mea maxima culpa!  


Anyone with observations on either engagement will be trebly blessed by the Almighty. However, I will make an effort to "get my

ducks in a row" on both of these interesting engagements. 

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bob lembke

Have struggled thru many hazards to reach my shelves of German official histories. There are several series, which approach

the history of the Great War from several different angles. There is a series called Der Weltkrieg 1914-1918, which works from 

a high-level perspective, only weakly chronological, first looking at the diplomatic issues at a certain stage of the war, perhaps

going on to either German or Allied preparations for a planned offensive, then perhaps switching from the Western Front to the 

Eastern Front (the description of events on the two major fronts might be four months out of synch), and then to perhaps changes

in the machine gun establishment in the British and French Armies; introduction of a new type, number of gins per type per

battalion, etc. (I was just reading this discussion.) So it is not easy to find the discussion of the fighting on a given day, which 

might be spread across 60 pages. These volumes might be 600 pages, plus an index and end materials, including boxed maps.

I think that the last volume of this series was finished in 1944, and that that volume is exceedingly rare and expensive. (I am a

few years away from active work with these materials.)


As far as the first action I referenced, near Berry au Bac, on April 4, 1917, I can find no mention of it in Volume 12 of this series.


In regard to the second action, at the village of Bullecourt on May 4, 1917, I did find specific mention. I have a list of UK divisions

generally involved in a large-scale Allied attack on May 3 in this sector, but not the specific unit defending the village on May 4th

against the German counter-attack. That counter-attack on both sides of the village was by units of the 27. (wuerttembergischen)

Infantrie=Division; CO General von Maur, with the support of the 10th Company of the Guards flame regiment. The official history 

does specifically mention the same booty of prisoners and MGs from my other source.


There is another series of official histories that I will poke thru to see if they cover this battle. If that series does, the probability will be

well below 50%, the findings will be detail-rich.

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HI Bob,


South of Berry-au-bac is a hamlet named "Le Godat", I think it is the right one. The sector was held by the 14. French Infantry Division on 4 April 1917. In the division war diary there is a mention of a German attack on that day:


"4 April 1917 - from 4pm to 6.30pm strong bombardment by Minen and heavy shells on our frontline - at 6.30pm a violent attack is launched by the Germans , supported by Sosstruppen and infantry units on all the frontline held by the division. At 10.25pm it seems that we have lost La Neuville, Le Godat, Solferino and Malakoff."


On the night the French counter-attack and retake their lost positions on the morning. The official casualties are 13 killed, 22 wounded and 112 missing.

The French units involved in that attack were the 60. Regiment d'infanterie, the 3. Zouaves and a battalion of the 44. Regiment d'infanterie.


Hope that helps,



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There is good description of the events on the 4 April and a map in the diary of the 60. Regiment d'infanterie.




It also says that all the german casualties were from the  Infanterie Regiment Nr 81 (Landgraf Friedrich I. von Hessen-Cassel)21. Division



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bob lembke

I have looked for more material on the attack in the vicinity of Berry au Bac on April 4, 1917.


As I said, Volume 12 of Der Weltkrieg 1914-1918 , at my first reading, did not seem to mention the

engagement. However, the Daily Communique of the High Command for April 6th mentioned,

paraphrasing their citation,  that the French were attacked on April 4th, and that 15 officers, 827 men,

4 MGs, 10 mine throwers, and "much munitions" were captured.


As I said before, Der Weltkrieg is organized in such a fashion that the events of a given day on a given

front might be spread over 50 pages of a very large format book. So I conducted a second reading, and

Berry au Bac is mentioned at the bottom of page 177, in a section of text referencing April 4th, but it

was mentioned as a geographic point, so the engagement itself was clearly felt to be of too fine detail for

inclusion in this volume of historical overview.


My original mention of this engagement comes from Major Reddemann's brief history of the Guards flame

regiment, which covers 653 engagements and mentions most of them individually in a volume of about 60

pages. During the war he was required to write a report on every flame attack his 12 field companies

conducted, even an attack by a Flamm=Trupp of ten men with two flame-throwers, and I assume that he

still had his copies of this set of reports when he wrote his history. He reported that in an attack south of 

Berry au Bac, near the Aisne, the village of Le Sodat and 843 prisoners were taken. This seems to jibe 

with the Daily Communique's report of 15 officers and 827 men taken, for a total of 842.


So I am assuming that the the 842-3 men were captured in the attack on Le Godat, , and when the French 

counter-attacked later they lost 13 dead, 22 wounded, and 112 missing. The capture of a good number of

men and booty was often the hallmark of a successful flame attack, when the shock of the surprise of

multiple flame streams sometimes stunned the defenders.The volume of flame, dense black smoke,

and burning oil of the actual stream (not including smoke drifting away from the stream) from a light

Flammenwerfer was about 10,000 cubic feet, the stream from a heavy FW closer to 20,000 cubic feet.

One can imagine that multiple streams of that volume both extending forward into the front line and also

fired diagonally to provide cover for the flame teams would have a shock effect and effectively cover

advancing flame teams.


Sly, you report that the 14 DI diary reported "Stosstruppen" as well as "infantry", that might refer to a flame

attack. A flame platoon included many grenadiers, who only carried a P 08 pistol besides their grenades,

allowing them to carry more grenades and throw them more freely, when not encumbered with a slung rifle..

That element of the attack also might have generated the description of Stosstruppen


Sly, I hope that this additional detail is of interest to you. You have provided me with valuable detail, and leads 

for further research. Thanks for your help. I have not dug thru French war diaries and regimental histories 

for about 12 years.

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Bob, if you come across your readings to specific German names, I can assist you. I have all the German named i.e. woods/farms etc around Le Godat, Neuville, Loivre, Bermericourt, the regimental histories refer to. Unfortunately my detailed German aerials from Le Godat are from 01/1918only, so 9 months too late.

Edited by egbert

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Le Godat was always the scene of fierce fightongs . The battles were all about the nearby Höhe 100 and Königswald. This area was devastated and changed sides often. It was certainly a hotspot for Stosstrupps in the context of Sturmtruppen. Some of my aerials here in this thread:



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bob lembke

Egbert, I will deeply appreciate your assistance. I have a research goal in mind, not just recounting old nasty

fighting. And I am making flawed efforts to introduce more quantification into the history of the Great War. A

product of having spent years building large economic and demographic computer models.

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